Monday, October 31, 2011

Amazing Halloween Light Show

Wow, wish we could do something like this!

Happy Halloween everybody! This is probably our favorite holiday, but we were just too busy this fall to get a party put together. Hopefully it will be a bigger deal next year.

Living Room Ordered

Well, we made all the decisions for the living room. Everything is ordered and due in about a month. Now we just have to wait....

We ordered two loveseats and one cube chair.

Sharon agonized about the fabric some more. The lighter fabric really matches the different colors in the room and has a nice William Morris-feel to its design; it even has a pomegranate. It is also cheaper than the purple and available at our local fabric store. Seemed like the right decision...
Then Sharon found this rug at It was less than $200, rather than the $1300 of the purple Lasenby rug. Seemed like a no-brainer.Sharon also ordered a bird cage this afternoon. We had the smaller "Designer Aviary" like this one in our last house, and we really liked it. The craftsmanship was excellent and it held up well against bird chewing. (They can't reach the wood from the inside.) We ordered the large classic oak bird cage with the cabinet.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Fabric Decision

Sharon went off shopping today to find some fabric that would go with the plum upholstery fabric. Her current plan is to upholster the two loveseats with the same fabric and then use a coordinating fabric for the chair. This was her initial fabric selection.

But then she saw this fabric, which threw the whole plan into disarray. It was lighter colored and matched the Craftsman colors very well. Maybe we should use this fabric instead of the plum fabric... (It would certainly make buying coordinated rugs less expensive.)

She's not really brave enough to use both florals, but could probably be talked into it. Which would you choose? (Comments appreciated.)

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Fall Has Arrived!

The great fall leaf migration has begun! And many of our neighbors appreciated our afternoon efforts as we mostly cleaned up their yards. (We don't have trees in our front yard yet.)
The chickens love to dig around in the pile.

Jeff had an exciting morning climbing a tree. See his post here.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Crazy Fence Plan

We're hoping to install a fence in this side yard that spans the driveway.Today we came up with a preliminary fence plan. It might be way-too-complicated for us to build ourselves, but we might give it a try anyway.
We're gathering prices for the wood now and also shopping around for tools.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Living Room Furniture Dreamin'

Sharon has been looking literally for months for living room furniture on craigslist, but the good deal craftsman-style pieces get snapped up so quickly in our area, that we just haven't been successful, despite Sharon diligently checking craigslist every single day.

So she has been weak the last week or so and has been seriously considering buying some new living room furniture!! (It's very rare that we buy new furniture anymore. We took some serious losses on new furniture purchases when we sold our last house.)

The full-size couch we have in the living room now is just too big. There is hardly any room to walk around it and it isn't as "period" as we would like, so this prompted Sharon to spend a few hours shopping around on the internet for appropriately styled loveseats. It was pretty obvious right away new loveseats are expensive—like to the tune of $3,000 each. We won't spend that much. (We're not necessarily being solid wood snobs—Sharon just hasn't found inexpensive veneer imitations in the right style.)

But Sharon ran across a seller on eBay who makes some nice looking furniture for comparatively affordable prices and is thinking about ordering two of these loveseats and a cube chair.

The seller will even finish the chairs in your own upholstery fabric, which then sent Sharon on another quest. She so fell in love with this plum fabric. Even though purple is Sharon's favorite color, we have never used it to decorate our homes. This might be the time we finally get to incorporate some purple in our decor.

And since we're dreaming here, she also found a period coordinating rug! The Lasenby: A simple yet elegant lattice design attributed to C.F.A. Voysey.Now we just need to find $7,000 somewhere and we can get all the pieces we're dreaming about. =)

Update a couple days later: Sharon caved. She wrote back and forth with the seller a couple times and when he offered her 5% off the price (basically, a quantity discount), she ordered the pieces. Hopefully the purple fabric color will work with our room colors so she can get that ordered too.

Got the fabric sample on Saturday. It should work!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

House Task List

We have been so overwhelmed by the many projects we've taken on lately, that it's been hard to really stay on target on any of them. So, over the weekend, Sharon spent several hours trying to put everything into a list. It's huge, when broken down into smaller individual tasks. But maybe not so bad when you look at the overall tasks (in no particular order):
  1. Buy woodworking tools
  2. Finish planting rain gardens
  3. Plan and build pergola at back patio
  4. Clean bricks and install back patio
  5. Finish priming/painting/staining basement bathroom
  6. Install flooring/fixtures in basement bathroom
  7. Plan and build raccoon-safe chicken coop
  8. Buy/Make 2 curtains for dining room
  9. Replace exterior door locks
  10. Plan and build side fence
  11. Clean bricks and install front walk
  12. Clean up painted hardware; re-plate/replace if necessary
  13. Uninstall broken leaded glass panels
  14. Make 2 kitchen leaded glass panels
  15. Make 2 dining room leaded glass panels
  16. Make 6 parlor leaded glass panels
  17. Buy/Make 4 curtains for living room
  18. Stain/Shellac master bedroom woodwork
  19. Repaint master bedroom and closets
  20. Refinish master bedroom floors
  21. Plan/Install master bedroom closet interiors
  22. Plan/Install kitchen pantry interior
  23. Buy/Make 3 shades/curtains for parlor
  24. Stain/Varnish inside of side exterior door
  25. Strip woodwork in guest bedroom
  26. Stain/Shellac woodwork in guest bedroom
  27. Repaint walls/ceiling in guest bedroom
  28. Refinish floor in guest bedroom
  29. Strip woodwork in sewing room
  30. Stain/Shellac woodwork in sewing room
  31. Repaint walls/ceiling in sewing room
  32. Refinish floor in sewing room
This is not actually our full remodel to-do list. This is just the list we had floating around in our minds for projects we wanted to do "this winter." Of course, it was obvious, once we got everything written down, that we'll never get through this list this winter. It's unlikely we'll get through this list in the next year! =)

But now that we've made the list, we've been able to spend some time prioritizing the order for these tasks and it's been a lot easier to be productive with our time. Also, with the size of the list, it is obvious we need to keep working on projects or this list will take several years, so it has helped reduce our computer/TV goof-off time.

The side fence is our next priority, since our animals keep wandering out of the backyard. Sharon is working on the plan and has started shopping for wood, but we're still trying to decide whether we put in a huge gate to span the driveway we don't use, or whether we simply punt on being able to drive a car back to the garage and put in a man-size gate. If we fail to finish this task by the end of November, we'll probably hire it out.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Making Roller Shades?

When the casement windows on the front of the house were stripped of paint, we found this hardware buried under the paint. Sharon just recently figured out this is hardware used for hanging spring roller shades. So, now she is exploring the options for putting roller shades back on those front windows.

One option would be to buy traditional style roller shades from a company in Portland, Handwerk Shade Shop. But by the time we've added the option for a pull and stencil and pay $5 each for shipping (the company won't let you pick them up—even if you're local), the set of three is more than $300.

Since she already bought linen for curtains for these windows, Sharon has been on a mission the last few days to figure out if roller shades are something she can make.

She found a number of tutorials online about how to make roller shades, but their directions invariably begin with "start with a (cheap, worn, or ripped) roller shade." Most modern roller shades that meet that description have visible plastic parts. Our goal here is to make a period-style spring roller shade with NO visible plastic.

Sharon has spent a while shopping around for parts to make her own set of roller shades. From what she can figure out, it seems like she can just buy the wood dowel with the spring already installed and mounting hardware, then install the stenciled and starched fabric herself. Doing this would bring the cost to more like $100 for all three windows (including buying starch and metal pulls but not including the fabric she already purchased).

Has anyone else done this? Is Sharon understanding the parts correctly? She's trying to get help from the company selling the parts, but apparently they've been bogged down with questions and aren't taking calls right now. So, she's trying to figure this out over email. Once we figure it all out—we'll share our results.

In case anyone else is interested, the best sets of instructions Sharon found were these websites:
Sewing 101: Roller Blinds
How to Make a Fabric Roller Shade Using Repurposed Materials

1959 instructions to make your own fabric roller shades

The best instructions Sharon has found to date:
DIY Fabric Roller Shade

Wow, Sharon found the wood rollers for less than $5/each—too bad we don't need 50! Now we just need like 10 other people to go splitsy on an order with us or figure out if we can resell the rods on craigslist for cost.

Gray Bricks

Holy cow, these gray bricks are hard to clean!! Now we know we didn't get our money's worth. Sharon spent several hours cleaning bricks today and cleaned 39!! Seriously, only 39. This is Sharon's tiny "finished pile."We think the bricks are actually made from cement and they've got lots of pores that hold onto the failing mortar very well. Ironically, one of the best ways to clean the mortar off of them is to rub two bricks together, but they're about 5 pounds each and the muscles give out pretty quickly using that method.

And it's also hard to tell when you've removed all the mortar because the brick is basically the same color. So, this is a slow project and many of the bricks will no doubt be installed with some of the mortar residue still on them.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

More Bricks to Clean

Obviously we love cleaning bricks, because we went and got more! We bought 300 gray bricks, still with mortar, from someone on craigslist today. Our poor pickup is groaning under the weight; it was maybe a bit much to transport in one load. We probably paid too much given that they still need to be cleaned, but Sharon went and got her heart set on having a pattern like this one for the path and back patio.

We were both pretty tired by the time we got home, so we'll be unloading tomorrow!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Outdoor Projects

Jeff worked hard today finishing up digging the last two rain gardens on the side of the house. He's almost there.Unfortunately, this huge rosemary plant was a bit of a fatality. Though, we are planning to root quite a few cuttings to plant elsewhere in the yard.While he worked on that project, Sharon slowly chipped away at the brick pile. She removes the mortar much more slowly than Jeff can, but she did manage to clean off almost 100 bricks. Our "cleaned" brick pile continues to grow.While our "dirty" brick pile is slowly shrinking. We're getting there.

A Bit of Fun

Inspired by some pictures she saw online, Sharon decided to try sewing an empty chicken feed bag into a tote bag.

She mostly followed the steps contained in this set of instructions. Though, after she made handles out of the strips out of feed sack, she attached them in a similar manner to the canvas bags she normally makes (instructions here), because she believes they'll be a bit stronger.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Rain Garden Resources

In Multnomah County, rate payers pay quite a lot for stormwater management (our last bill was more than $20/month). Our goal has been to disconnect from the storm drain in an attempt to save money through Portland's Clean River Rewards Program.

There are quite a few useful online resources for how to build rain gardens in your own yard. The one we are primarily relying on is published by SeaGrant Oregon titled The Oregon Rain Garden Guide. It has a really useful list of plants in the back of the booklet. Portland also has a good video summary on "How to Build a Rain Garden."

If you live in the Portland, Oregon area you can also take Rain Gardens 101, a free workshop, through the East Multnomah Soil & Water Conservation District. Jeff and Sharon took it last year and they give you a nice printed booklet and teach you how to calculate the water basin size requirements.

In addition, here are some useful online resources:
Building a Rain Garden booklet (pdf).
How to Manage Stormwater: Soakage Trenches booklet (pdf).
How to Manage Stormwater: Rain Gardens booklet (pdf).

Monday, October 17, 2011

Awesome Product: Brasso

Sharon picked up some Brasso at the store the other day and has been on a binge the last couple of days trying to clean up old brass-plated hardware throughout the house. She had been thinking about buying some new curtain hardware, but most of this old hardware is cleaning up satisfactorily. The hardware is definitely not looking "like new," but is achieving a nice, mellow aged look.

This is one piece of hardware from the living room, shown before and after cleaning with Brasso.

Almost Finished Planting

Jeff got right to work this morning finishing up the front yard planting.While he did that, Sharon laid out the plants in the backyard rain garden according to the plan.A few hours later, Jeff also finished planting the plants in the backyard. (Go Jeff!!)We still need to track down a few more plants for the basin. We need a plant that will tolerate shade and wet roots—perhaps dense sedge (Carex densa), if we can find it.

We're still working on the plant lists for the side yard rain gardens before Jeff starts sticking the last 10 plants in the ground. Unfortunately this area has the double challenge of being shady and also being under a black walnut. Ohio State University has a good list of plants that can tolerate being planted under black walnut trees. Though, it's fairly easy to find names of plants that will work—but it's not always so easy to find the actual plants at the nursery.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Plant Day!

Today was finally the day we got to go pick up our 55 plants from the Audubon Society Native Plant Sale. We spent quite a while juggling around the plant arrangement then Jeff got to work planting.He got most of the plants in the front rain garden planted, but he had to stop and leave for a meeting this evening. Hopefully, the rest will make it in the ground tomorrow; we're hoping the decent weather will hold out.

Our little Anya chicken is moulting—poor cold baby. We wonder how long until the other two start moulting. Looks like we'll be buying eggs this winter.